Toronto is the center of my universe

(I wrote this in the early morning of Sunday, January 4, 2009, but edited it now for clarity.)

I’m sitting in Vinnie’s 30-something floor apartment living room with a clear view of partially frozen Lake Ontario, CN Tower poking into the fog, and the various satellites atop communications hub CBC. I am in a slice of sky, amongst downtown skyscrapers and condos. We were out and up late last night and, natually, I’m the first one to be awake and rather than twiddling my thumbs, I BLOG.

I had the spectacular kind of day yesterday that makes me yearn to live in Toronto. In the morning, I went to Chinese lunch with my doting retired Big Uncle (大舅) and an elder cousin who could be persuaded to tumble out of bed at the prospect of food. In the afternoon, Big Uncle brought me along to visit my grandparents who have recently entered a nursing home. One grandparent is making steady recovery since an injury while the other grandparent is in decline. Granddaughterly duty completed, I had time to see Thuy who lives in Markham and we got caught up in a tea shop in one of the numerous Chinese plazas and enjoy novel “bubble tea” drinks (mangoccino anyone?) and savoury snacks.

Liv, a Vancouver-based cousin, was also in town and we tried to meet up with our Toronto cousins, brothers who live in the Yonge-and-Eg area. Liv ended up not making it so my cousins the brothers, a cousin-in-law (the younger brother’s wife), and I made a small party of four. We leisurely dined at a hip  British pub and endlessly swapped stories. I thought it would be a sedate 90-minute affair but I was so wrong. Finally, I arrived at Vinnie’s CityPlace condos and was not late at all considering we did not make it out of the apartment for the Entertainment District until a good 2.5 hours later!

I recognize that if I lived in Toronto, my everyday would be far less raucous than the crazy 48 hours I allow myself in my annual layover. “Logically”, I have exactly the same number of relatives in Vancouver as I have in Toronto (actually it is currently 14-12) so I’m theoretically just as well-supported in either city. But I saw my Toronto relatives often when I was growing up, being just two hours away by plane. My Toronto cousins were the ones I fondly remember playing with during March Breaks in Toronto and summers in Hong Kong. There are 7 of us born within the auspicious Dragon (1974) and Horse (1978) years.

My best girlfriends live in Toronto and Ottawa. They are the friends I made when we had all the time in the world in university, before cynism and Real Life clouded our ability to make friends.

My cousin Liv is Vancouver-based: her whole family is there! Besides, her job ensures that should her wanderlust kick into high gear, she can satiate it. How the heck did I become Vancouver-based?? Currently, Liv and I are the “Vancouver” cousins who flit through Toronto several times a year – we can’t really be nailed down, in a big hurry, with jam-packed schedules. Because the Toronto people never visit Vancouver.

Sometimes I consider pressing the Undo Button to end up here.

At breakfast, Big Uncle and my cousin slagged Toronto life. They’ve had enough of it and I feel comforted that I have skipped that step and move straight to Vancouver, “Canada’s retirement capital”. At the pub, the brothers can’t see themselves living anywhere else – I wouldn’t be able to see it either if I were living in their quintessentially Toronto neighbourhood.

Mona and I were talking about how Ontario provided two most fitting cities for her and our mutual friend, Vinnie: Ottawa and Toronto, respectively. You couldn’t do a City Swap without both of them being miserable and you wouldn’t get insightful paradigm shifts à la Wife Swap. For them and Thuy, constant Big Life Changes keep coming up that are wonderful milestones in life and with them occuring in Ontario, more roots for them take hold. I am grudgingly reconciling myself to that.

When I return to Vancouver, I’m overcome with several mostly negative sensations. I leave Pearson (Toronto airport) to arrive at YVR (Vancouver airport) which reeks of faux attempts to bring nature indoors. While in Toronto, I don’t feel irrevocably far from my family in Halifax–leaving Toronto (on a jet plane) heading for Vancouver is the irrevocable step. You can find me clawing at the windows, as if I changed my mind and don’t want to leave just yet. I return to Vancouver with Big City Dust on me and a snooty attitude about the crummy wannabe world-class city that is my current home. I shun or am distant with people who are close to me. This typically lasts a few days to a week.

My universe is big enough to have two hubs. Rather, I am not happy with just one hub if it’s Vancouver. You see, no matter what, I remain–a Toronto-ish/East Coast Girl living in Vancouver.